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Cheating has crept into rugby

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John Beattie | 11:17 UK time, Monday, 26 April 2010

Rugby is turning into a cheat-fest and creeping inexorably toward football-style behaviour. And the professional coaches and players who are at the heart of this should be ashamed. The rulers of the game should be even more ashamed.

The mistake rugby makes is in not briefing referees on the deliberate cheating some teams get away with week in and week out. A prop feigns an injury? Get him off the pitch.

I hate it. People lying there, on the wrong side of the ball, conning the referee with arms held straight as if to say: "Look ref, I am not in the way." Oh yes you are. And you are not rolling away. You are deliberately slowing the ball down, you have practiced this, and you are cheating. Fairly recently, my friend, we could have kicked you.

Leinster's Trevor Hogan was sin-binned for this tackle on Chris CusiterAnd there are one or two antics creeping into rugby that I hate. And they indicate lack of respect for the opposition and a lack of nerve from the game's rulers.

You see, you might want to talk to me about fans booing players taking kicks. As I have said before I have no problem with that because it's what happens on the pitch that is important to me. That's what young players watch. I don't care if Mrs Bloggs from 3 Helensburgh Drive in Jordanhill is booing a French kicker because she has no interaction with him.

But spending, as I do, my life watching rugby I see it change weekly. And you have to understand that I am a coach too so I absolutely think that what happens on the pitch is coached, or at least instructed from the top and practised in training.

So here are my pet hates in modern rugby:

Free kicks: As soon as one team is awarded a free kick the other team puts the ball as far away from them as possible. I saw it when Edinburgh played Ulster on Sunday, when Glasgow played Leinster on Friday, and when Munster played the Ospreys on the telly. It's so petty. It's so sneaky. It's so pathetic.

Lineouts: The team not throwing the ball in makes sure the other team can't throw it in quickly by doing the very same as they do at free kicks.

Not rolling away at the tackle: This has gone beyond a joke. A friend of mine wrote an article principally accusing the Irish provinces of this and, while Munster are kings at breakdown and in-particular at blocking the path of quick ball, they are not alone and most rugby sides now appear to have coached their tacklers to stay in an obstructing location while pretending to be trapped. "Look ref, my arms are outstretched. I am trapped!" It's pathetic. At the weekend, Munster were penalised for it but everyone seems to be at it and it's getting to me.

Crowding the ref: I thought this only happened in football. It's happening in rugby

Time wasting: If one more prop goes down feigning an injury so that the game can't restart, thereby allowing a centre to be treated, I will run down from the stand and hit him.

Blocking: The amount of blocking in front of backs move is almost unbelievable.

There, got it off my chest.

A crowd can stay silent at a kick while a team cheats on the pitch and you want me to be happy? Do me a favour. It's what happens on the pitch that counts and we are losing the plot.

Referees should be given a dossier as to what each team is up to. The first time they try it should see a yellow card. And pretty soon we would weed out this pathetic stuff from our game. We would pretty soon have a game without props if they keep feigning injuries. I love my game. I hate cheating.


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  • Comment number 1.

    Absolutely delighted to read this article! These little but highly irritating, niggly and petty aspects of the game that have been introduced in the last few years really get under my skin, so it is great to hear a recognised voice flag it up and address it.
    However, as much as I wish you were on to a winner, this is a losing battle. I teach HNC Sports Coaches at a College and during a recent discussion on a coach's moral compass, ethics and code of honour, it was almost non existent. The need to win overides everything, the reward is greater than the honour and the situation is only going to get worse. The football association recently tried to highlight a diving case which was shouted down from within- buried and ridiculed. Rugby would look after their own too.
    I agree it starts with coaches who need to lead by example, practice what they preach and discipline within. Players need to learn it is wrong, and there is a consequence from their own team if caught. Would you drop one of your own for a spot of time wasting?? Best of luck to you!

  • Comment number 2.

    John - Good post as usual. I note that the issue of 'professional foul play' for this is what your describing in not on the wee list for the IRB game trends conference in May;
    Anyway, given this is not a decision making forum I doubt little will come of it.

    I am no expert of the laws of the game, but I do think that we already have the laws that if applied consistently and fairly would "solve" many of the problems.

    Crowding round the ref ...march them back 10.
    Threw the ball away ...march them back 10.
    Not rolling away ... the ref just has to be consistent and apply the law.

    What has surprised me is how little help the ref seems to get from his assistants. This is particularly the case and important with off-side. When there's a ruck the ref cannot be expected to have eyes in the back of his head so he can officiate the ruck and spot the defensive backline creeping up off-side so as to bliz the opposing backs. Should / can the assistant ref flag for off-side just as in football?

  • Comment number 3.

    Theosportsfan - I didn't know there was going to be a symposium. Rugby is growing inexorably around the world and I want it to remain the game where the players show each other respect and have respect for the laws of the game. Or at least regain that territory.

    Yes, the linesman can have a team up for offside at the ruck and they do. Most teams are marginally offside at every rugby. The problem is that if you were to penalise that at every opportunity the game would never start.

    What gets me is the deliberate stuff. Throwing the ball away, feigning injuries in "kit kat" moments, and unsportsmanlike behaviour.

    We have to stamp out this cheating, and it's cheating which is being coached.

    Nitemair - only the governing body in harness with refereeing edicts can change this, and I am glad you agree.


  • Comment number 4.

    along with these things you have highlighted, i have noticed a number of player tackling with the shoulder and then wrapping the arm round, some thing which i thought was illegal as you had to tackle with your arms?

  • Comment number 5.

    Great post John.

    I agree wholeheartedly with your sentiments (except booing the kicker).

    I hope something can be done about it. However, many rugby fans laud the perpetrators. Quinlan of Munster has been getting away with as much as he can for his whole career. Because he gets away with so much and niggles the opposistion he is hailed as team legend! Richie McCaw, Martyn Williams and Neil Back are hailed as masters of the 'dark arts of backrow play' - that translates as either pushing the rules to the limit or cheating as much as you can get away with.

    Back to the weekend and the Leinster fans on 606 have all been claiming there team was right to commit so many fouls against Glasgow and get 4 players sin binned as it kept the score down. It might have kept the score down but it also lacks sporting integrity.

    Refs need to come down hard on niggling infringements that are clearly deliberate. How many warnings does a player like Quinlan or Grewcock have to get? For goodness sake they know what they are doing - send them off straight away - no warnings. That will soon stop it.

  • Comment number 6.

    I agree that all these things are unnacceptable, but do you really think these problems are new to rugby? They have been around since the game first started and will always be there.

    Apart from the crowding of referees, but I have seen no evidence of this. Can you give me an example?

  • Comment number 7.

    As Theosportsfan mentions, there's an easy solution. Either march them back 10 yards or turn a freekick into a penalty if they transgress. However, I think the "not rolling away" offence may be difficult to adjudicate as there are definitely occasions where a player can't realistically be expected to extricate himself from the pile of bodies.

    Also, my biggest annoyance during the Six Nations was the scrums. I wouldn't class myself as a rugby expert but the commentators seemed to be endlessly stating that props weren't binding yet the referees seemed to be guessing at who the offender was. I think it was the Scotland vs Wales match where the front rows seemed to spend half the match with their noses in the mud which doesn't make for good viewing!

  • Comment number 8.

    I'm not a big Rugby fan, more a casual observer, but I remember saying a few years ago that with the introduction of professionalism, that Rugby would probably soon a huge rise in petty, niggly Football style behaviour.
    When s sport becomes a business, sportsmanship goes out the window.

  • Comment number 9.

    So I am now right in saying that Rugby has lost it's main "claim to fame"? When a Sport matters enough, people will always cheat to try and win. It's just the way it goes.

  • Comment number 10.

    I can see comments 6, 7 and 8 waiting to be cleared by the moderator and lest anyone think this is somehow anti Irish, I watched three cup finals at Murrayfield on Sunday and I suspect some of all of this was prevalent in every game

    What I am saying is that this nonsense is spreading to every part of our game. From club level to the professional level.

    How can we condone this "send a prop down on one knee and pretend he is injured" nonsense

    JB (grumpy old man today)

  • Comment number 11.

    Unfortunately the nature of the game of rugby lends itself to being able to get away with these kind of infringements. If a referee was to apply the strictest letter of the law to every ruck and scrum then the whistle would never really stop.

    The standard of goal kicking is generally so high now that constant penalisation for minor infractions would lead to very little running rugby and gaes would be decided on kicking penalties. The various new and experiental laws that have been brought in are designed to make the game more free flowing but instead seems to just be affording the referees even more excuse to blow the whistle and slow the game down. Was there anything really so wrong with the old fashioned ruck? If a ans in the way, you get him out of the way and in general everyone is entitled to compete at the breakdown instead of these new grab, release and grab again complex tackle systems.

    No matter what the rules, people will generally push them to the limit (the so called masters of the dark arts). In my opinion the best way to deal with this rather unavoidable eventuality is to accept it and put a reasonable system in place to liit its impact. If this means a "shoeing" for a player on the wrong side, so be it. The rules seem to be getting increasingly complicated for player and fan alike and is it really acheiving anything?

  • Comment number 12.

    "How can we condone this "send a prop down on one knee and pretend he is injured" nonsense"

    I wonder how long you've been watching the game- rather longer than me I suspect.

    However, I remember this being rife in the game throughout the last 80's and 90's.

    "Gamesmanship" they used to call it.

    If Scotish or whichever teams are not doing it, they should consider it. Might even make a semi final ot 2 one day.

  • Comment number 13.

    what might be deemed as cheating is certainly becoming more and more prevalent - teams stopping quick throw ins, free kicks and tap penalties know that they will get away with it, especially now as a quick tap is only allowed once. Professional players now seem to think it is acceptable to commit a penalty offence to limit the opposition to 3 points, rather than a potential 7, pushing a win at all costs mentality that is then transfered into all levels of the game, not that the old solution of slugging the offender was much better as a response but it stopped people doing it all game.

    Dangerous tackles are becoming more and more visible but what particularly worries me is the number of tackles around peoples necks, especially at the top level of the game. The 6 Nations was unbelieveable for this trait and yet the refs did nothing because it was always the 2nd man who did it and so after the initial collision, seemingly making it OK - injuries like the one suffered by Thom Evans are an accident but when people are deliberately targeting the neck then it is so much more than a mistake and can be alot more serious for the tackles player.

  • Comment number 14.

    A very good blog, I wholeheartedly agree with what you say. However, with the increased money in the professional game isn't this going to carry on?
    My main gripe is the tackle area & the deliberate slowing of the ball. My solution is to reintroduce rucking NZ style, where what is on the floor is grass & you walk on it. The health & safety exec have put paid to that though!
    I also agree with why warn cheats ie: rolling the ball away, unsportsmanlike behaviour. Yellow card instantly, and back 10m is so underused. How about, turning a free kick into a full penalty for lack of sportsmanship?
    Oh well, so much needs to be discussed to make the game a better spectacle. I loved every minute of my playing days, I just don't recognise the game anymore. Despite the professional era I still think we should strive to get that special rugby ethos to prevail.

  • Comment number 15.

    HERE HERE John. Its creeping in and it needs nipped in the bud now. I've recently started refereeing at Junior level and I've seen Juniors run off with the ball when I award penalties and free kicks. I deal with it by first issuing a warning to the captain and then if it happens again 10 metres. I had an U14 captain tell me that the pro's do it and they don't get marched back 10 so why should his team. This just highlights the problem.

    Sorry i'm out of position i'd better get back onside, so i'll go out of my way to get there through the 9-10 channel, Oops sorry ref i was getting back onside. The worst one I've seen happened in last season's Heineken Cup when Olivier Azam pretended to be severely injured following a Tom James headbutt. Now I don't condone head butting and Tom James was rightly Red carded, but Azam's conduct was disgraceful and I'd have sent him off as well.

    Have to say I don't like booing the kicker but its creeping in particularly i'm afraid to say at Murrayfield which disappoints me more. I would expect at Millennuim Stadium for Dan Parks to be given quiet therefore as a Scot it disappoints me when Stephen Jones doesn't get quiet at Murrayfield.

  • Comment number 16.

    Scottish80 - yup, shoulder charges are on the up with the late wrap. Hard to spot, probably not coached but a last second decision. It happens a lot in rugby league too. JB

  • Comment number 17.

    Welcome to the age of professionalism JB

  • Comment number 18.

    Couldn't agree more with you John. I absolutely hate this thing of players sticking their hands up in the air when on the wrong side of the ruck. Would you be in favour of bringing back rucking to help get the players back onside at a much quicker pace? I agree with must peoples pet peeves here but the one that annoys me the most is the sarcastic tapping of opposing players heads. I think that it should be a full penalty on the spot.

    I agree with joedavis that we have to accept the some of the laws are pushed to the limit. I mean we all know the players like quinnie McCaw and the likes push the laws a bit but surely the refs are also keeping an eye on these players because of their reputations.

  • Comment number 19.

    Great article on the whole.

    My only concern is your comment about running down from the stands and hitting someone. Someone fakes an injury and you want to actually hurt them? That is condoning violence and is argubly far worse than any of the 'small issues' you have raised within your sport.

  • Comment number 20.

    What about reffing the basics as well, straight throwing into a line out and a straight put in at a scrum, you see this go unstopped in almost every game now.

  • Comment number 21.

    Great blog, John. There is a solution to the problems u rightly protest about. Notify the players ahead of a round of matches that certain offences will be retro-actively punished based on video evidence, with punitive bans lasting a number of weeks.
    Regarding shoulder charges, they are legal in rugby league. In union they often seem to be used on a dummy runner or after a player has passed the ball, away from the officials' gaze.

  • Comment number 22.

    top post Mr B. if I had my way it would be back to the good old days like at anniesland, on the wrong side, you get a shooing.

  • Comment number 23.

    Steady, John. Have you considered counselling?

  • Comment number 24.

    One other thing that rugby has borrowed from football is diving. It is becoming more and more common across all levels of rugby. Just take the game on Saturday at Twickenham. First yellow card...fully deserved. Second....cleverly won.

  • Comment number 25.

    There's no doubt we could do without these things in the game. And although JDR says players will inevitably stretch the rules to their limits, I don't think this needs to be the case - look at golf. It's all about building up a culture of respect. Many aspects are already there and although the game will never be perfect, it could certainly be improved.

    However I think it's wrong to legitimise booing at matches by a comparison with the behaviour on the pitch. Could we not hope for a culture of respect on and off the pitch? In other words, why not strive to make rugby the best game that it can be? In the same way that there will be no less aggression in the game when the cheating you mention is done away with, similarly there will be no less of an atmosphere when booing at matches is stopped.

  • Comment number 26.

    I have noticed a lot of this as well. The worst I find is the diving that is creeping in. Nearly every time when a player puts a kick up they hit the ground if there is any kind of contact when they make their run. These are the same players that have no problem keeping upright with 3 men hanging off their legs.

    I'm also noticing players making the most out of being high tackled.

  • Comment number 27.

    Big Irish gooner, you perhaps have hit the nail on the head. Is this true, as soon as money comes into something then sportsmanship goes out the window? My trouble is that I am seeing it permeate the amateur game now, because what they see on the tv they do on the pitch.

    It's ten past five and off for a jog. It clears the head. And kills the knees, and the hip. But they will have to be fixed one day.

    The great Munsty - The basics of unsportsmanlike behaviour are becoming more and more prevalent. I have seen players in twos and threes at pro level and at elevated club level express this disagreement with a referee and move toward him and argue the toss. I predict it will get worse.


  • Comment number 28.

    Hi John, I was wondering what you made of the Glasgow game on Friday, and the numerous sin-bins? At least two of these appeared to have been due to not rolling away at the tackle, which I agree is unbelievably frustrating – most open tries against good defences are scored by the attacking team winning quick ball in the ruck. Anyway, Leinster were certainly punished for their indiscretions, (even if Glasgow didn't really capitalise), which seems to be pretty rare when compared to other games where you see this happening. Do you think this is the way forward to try to stamp this out of the game?

    On another matter, delighted with Johnnie's decision to stay with the Warriors. He's been immense this year.

  • Comment number 29.

    this is disappointing to read and because i am no expert on the rules probably haven't spotted some of it when it has happened.

    I only recently got into rugby and it was the sportsmanship that drew me to it. I hate what football has begun and if rugby is slowly going the same way..what's

  • Comment number 30.

    I would agree with what everyone seems to be saying here. I can't blame any coach for telling or coaching their players to cheat. In professional sport it's all about winning, even if it means cheating. It has to be up to the referees to stop it happening though because no coach will have a go at players for slowing the opponents ball down.

    One pet hate of mine is the scrum situation. I'm a back so I could have this all wrong I guess but there are a couple of things that aren't right to me.

    Firstly - how do the scrum halves get away with feeding the scrums? They are hardly a contest any more. If a hooker throws in and it isn't straight then it is unquestionably a scrum to the other team. How is this any different in a scrum situation?

    My second problem is about the 'touch, pause, engage' rule. I don't see the point of it. The props touch the shoulder of the opposing prop then go back to where their hands were originally. I was under the impression that this helped the props so that they wouldn't get such an impact from the engage. Unless the props hold onto the other prop when 'touch' is called it is basically useless it seems to me.

    I also saw recently one ref penalise a player for 'not respecting the referees call'. If I remember correctly the prop touched the other props shoulder half a second before the ref called it. If it had been when 'engage' I'd understand but not 'touch', it just seemed very petty refereeing to me.

    When it comes to the tackle situation it is up to the attacking team to clear the bodies out of the way if the referees won't do anything. Seeing as they can't be stamped on any more then they should do what ever it takes within the laws of the game. I can't see what's wrong with dragging a player out of the ruck if they're lying on the wrong side, it's basically the same as clearing out the ruck.

    None of us as rugby fans are particularly keen to see endless kicking in matches but kicking well can win you matches. Players need to learn when it's right to kick and the teams need to learn how to chase a kick well.

    I would say that most of the 'experimental' laws haven't taken the game to a better level so I would say that most of them could be scrapped.

  • Comment number 31.

    I have waited so long for someone in the media to finally comment on the blatant cheating that has crept slowly into rugby. Thank you, John. Thank you.

    I am a prop, myself, and the one piece of cheating that annoys me most is the issue of the tight head prop binding on the loose head's arm, pulling him to the ground and then making the referee believe that the loose head has collapsed it. It happens me, week in week out at junior level, and I see it week in, week out in the professional game too.

    In the past few weeks though, I have noticed that referees are starting to pick up on it, which is some bit of a relief, but many referees still don't understand how the scrum works. I was at the Munster Ospreys match on Saturday, and although Neil Paterson awarded Munster a first half penalty for Adam Jones binding on Marcus Horan's arm, a few minutes later he awarded Jones a penalty after Horan apparently pulled Jones down. It's physically impossible for a loose head to drag his tight head opponent to the ground, and this is something that any referee should know.

    In my opinion at least, it's quite similar to dining in soccer; orchestrating a foul by your opponent when he has actually done nothing wrong.

    For those that watch rugby regularly, I would ask all of ye to take a look at the scrum next time and look at how often the tight head binds on the loose's arm.

    Rant over... Cheers.

    Angry Prop.

  • Comment number 32.

    rawa86 and Trevor - actually, I hate violence now as well. I am not in favour of allowing people to be kicked in public or every mum in the country will ban a child from playing

    Navybluearmy - it is one of its claims to fame. I still love the game and its complexities, but I hate it borrowing from football

    Boyne, I know, it is called kit kat time. But I am getting to truly hate it.

    Dan, I know, as above I do actually hate violence but I feel angry when I watch time wasting. Any modern prop would make me run a mile.

    Broly As for the booing - I do understand that being courteous to a kicker does give an event more mutual respect. I do understand that completely. I just get more vexed about what happens on the pitch. It's just my personal opinion as an ex player and coach. I would be happy if both sets of fans stay silent during a kick.

    Leinstersomeday. Hope I never have to go for counselling

    Back from my run now. Puff, puff, puff, off for a shower and then fish for tea. Too much information?

  • Comment number 33.

    Dear John, thank you for your honest and well written article. I am elderly and probably do not see all these misdemeanours but going by lot of crafty little ones I see I believe you.I love Rugby also even though I am not as smart and keen eyed as you young men. More power to your pen young man.

  • Comment number 34.

    The rolling away at the tackle has become a big problem. You talk about tacklers staying in an obstructing position but law 15.5a states: “ A tackled player must not lie on, over, or near the ball to prevent opponents from gaining possesion of it, ...” How many times at a ruck do you not see the tackled player falling sideways blocking the opposition with his body and not rolling away?
    At the breakdown both sides cheat as the laws are a bit of a mess and hard to enforce fairly.

  • Comment number 35.


    A brilliant blog - and at last someone of influence in the game who isn't afraid to acknowledge the iffy-ness creeping into the game.

    Too many players - and I'll stop short of naming names, though it's SERIOUSLY tempting - are bringing the game into disrepute with their antics. They're dishonouring their opponents and the match officials for one thing (two of the pillars of the game, surely) as well as their team-mates, supporters, club officials, and, of course, the game itself.

    Cheating and gamesmanship is for the round-ball game. Let's make sure the oval-ball game rises above such tomfoolery.

    As an aside, John, where did young John learn to kick the ball like he does. Couple of times on Friday night he almost carried a few wallops from post to post. Done it a few other times this season, too, much to the surprise of the Firhill crowd!

    Cheers and keep up the good work!

  • Comment number 36.

    Something that really annoys me is the scrum half at scrum time? When was the last time you saw the ball put into the scrum in the correct manner, and when was the last time it was penalised? Ok, it probably doesn't have as much of an effect as rolling away at the tackle can have, but it is the rules, and the touch judge is always in a position to tell the referee if it hasn't gone in straight. Unless the IRB aren't that bothered...

  • Comment number 37.

    John, excellent blog mate.

    Constant re-setting of the scrum dogged the 6 Nations & spoilt it.

    Bring back the shoeing, I was a left wing and just wanted to get away from the breakdown asap, before some fat-boy prop arrived and decided to 'run up the stairs' all the way to my pretty head.

    When they have rolled away, they should stay out of the way, getting up and putting your hands up, to delay the scrum half's feed is being OFFSIDE, penalty, no question.

    Rugby is still a sport, football has become a 'game', if referees don't get a grip soon the same antics will spoil this most pure of physical contests.

  • Comment number 38.

    John, when you say "A prop feigns an injury? Get him off the pitch", do you mean a yellow card or temporary replacement? A referee or one of his assistants is not in a position to determine if a prop (or any other player) is feigning injury or is genuinely hurt. It is very common in this increasingly brutal and powerful game for players to be injured - however slightly this may be - and require medical assessment at a break in play. Would you have a prop carrying a neck injury go into a scrum?

    One answer to this is rolling substitutions wher, at a break in play, a player carrying a knock can be replaced until the next break in play whilst they are assessed and/or treated. They may not come back on but this would solve the problem caused by injury delays.

    However, blocking is an entirely different matter and has been around for the best part of a decade - Clive Woodward was very concerned about the southerm hemisphere teams' use of dummy runners going into the 2003 World Cup and wanted clarification about when a dummy runner became a blocker.

    Total agree about players not rolling away - referees should be harsher and quick to penalise someone on the wrong side deliberately slowing the ball.

  • Comment number 39.


    Excellent observation and I think you've scratched at a thorn in every true rugby fan's side. I find the game very sterile with the blatant cheating - slowing the game down, obstructing play. Jumpers going for the ball with studs showing is another cynical ploy.
    I think Bennett was guilty at the end of the Munster game of feigning cramp, amazing how quickly he recovered.
    There are enough divers out there now also to construct a fleet of u-boats.

    Do you think the ref and TJ's job is made too hard by the number of rules they have to keep an eye on, that they miss basic stuff like forward passes, crooked feeds etc?

  • Comment number 40.

    Not only have you failed to apologise for previously advocating booing kickers but you continue to advocate it now. You should do the honourable thing and either retract your comments or resign.

    It astonishes me that you can write here about a football culture invading Rugby then advocate booing. No one who opposes booing is in favour of the cheating that's creeping into the game either. The majority would agree with you about opposing the on pitch gamesmanship however your comments are complete hypocrisy when you support booing kickers.

  • Comment number 41.

    Bob. Its not total hypocrisy - its an opinion. Blogs are opinions.

  • Comment number 42.

    cheers beats refreshing to hear. there's a reason i get so easily turned off football and im desperate for it to not happen to the game. and "Bob" #40...
    hypocrisy? no. if anything it's a mark of respect for the kicker. in football cristiano ronaldo loves it when he gets booed. rugby kickers are not much different...well, except that they aren't whiny little divers.

    I know that frankly I wouldn't care if supporters were booing me as i kicked.

  • Comment number 43.

    I hate it when supporters boo the kicker. It is not part of rugby culture which is based on fairness and respect. I've noticed recently that some substitutions are met with negative feedback and this, too, strikes me as disrespectful to the player who is the target of the jeers, booze and catcalls.

    Rugby does not need booing - leave that for the soccer grounds and boxing arenas.

    Please change your mind and say that you do not advocate anything in rugby, particularly booing, that runs contrary to the spirit of the game.

  • Comment number 44.

    Bob, you are a proud Welshman I see from your previous posts. There are two different things here. One is the breaking of an on-field code of conduct and lots and lots of laws by cheating, and the other is the breaking of an off field code of conduct by booing a kicker. I've played rugby in France, Spain, South Africa and New Zealand and seen and heard my kickers booed when I was on the pitch with them. In Argentina they do the same, some Irish booed Dan Parks, some Scots booed Jonny Wilkinson. I know what you are saying, but I can't resign from anything because I am not employed by anyone.

    Plus, sometimes the quietest crowds have the teams who cheat the most. It's only us, here in the UK, who don't boo.

    And, anyway, the worst bit of cheating I saw was at Cardiff Arms Park when Andy Haden and Frank Oliver dived out of a lineout and won a game Wales should have won. I watched that game as a boy and that annoyed me. I wonder if the Welsh crowd stayed quiet. If I'd been them I'd have booed. And Grant Batty was booed during the famous Barbarians game.

    (as an aside there's a topic, what was your favourite/worst bit of cheating everyone?)

    Bob, I am sorry, but I think we disagree.

    Dr Alucard. Again, I know what you are saying, but I see a midfield injury and then, conveniently, a prop goes down on one knee. Going down on one knee appears to be the accepted way of communicating. One solution might be that a professional team should have a front row man ready to come onto the pitch at any time immediately. Just as you say. And another thing.......stopping the game for contact lenses????

    MMcEwan - young JB was in Glasgow primary schools football team and trained with Rangers and a few others

    Mike - it is hard to spot. But my fellow coach and commentator Peter Wright always says that if a ball doesn't come back immediately, or come out the other side immediately, then someone is cheating. The ref's call is always "Ruck, no hands."

    Buzzardstubble - the future isn't kicking people....I did a bit of that as a player and I am not proud of it in any way.


  • Comment number 45.

    Off on a bit of a tangent I know, but with "Power Play" yellow cards often dictating the outcome of a match, how do you deal with lesser discretions by a player.

    Arguably, throwing a ball away from an opponent looking to take a quick free kick shouldn't determine the outcome of a 6N match for instance. Yet, in my view the player should still be admonished for such cynical and petty offences.

    In touch rugby for instance, if an opposition player requests the ball following an indiscretion, and is then not passed the ball, a penalty is usually awarded. If its a repeat offence the player might be asked to 'sub yourself off'. Overall team numbers are not reduced, but the player who has committed the offence is given time to reflect on their actions.

    The referee can determine the length of time that the player spends on the sideline, a policy which can also be used to good effect where tempers have become frayed.

    With rolling substitutions being experimented at junior level already, it will be interesting to see whether union looks to adopt any techniques used in other sports to manage such 'pet hates'?

  • Comment number 46.

    Let's get the booing out of the way - in more ways than one.
    You seem almost apologetic about defending it, and so you should be.
    The late, great commentator Bill McLaren, beloved by all, hated it (even if at times, he may have been tempted).
    Isn't it about respect?
    Isn't that what has always separated rugby from the dreaded f-word?
    Really don't understand how you want to separate this issue from on-field ones, they are inextricably linked.

  • Comment number 47.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 48.

    Total oblivious american, but love to watch rugby, whatever the form or team sizes. Even tried to play some "pick up" as opposition for my college club team: no idea what I was doing but it was, and remains fun.

    While I don't get all the subtleties, it seems (noticeable even to the oblivious) a problem across all sport--from soccer to gridiron, golf to table tennis, ice hockey to f1 and baseball. Used to be we patrolled our own--I have given an elbow or two, put some extra into a slide, and piched into a hitter or so with the message to stay in line--but that has been taken players because there is too much money on the line, with owners and esecutives having taken dramatic steps to eliminate player control of dime store gamesmanship.
    (At amateur level here, where a year of team dues will run a player $600 or better--plus travel and equipment costs--just to play you see the same nonsense, everybody wants to be rinaldo/louganis. Ha) When you find the solution, let us all know. I miss watching men behaving like men.

  • Comment number 49.

    Wise words about the pettiness creeping into the game. Have just returned to the game after 15 years - and been lobbed into prop. Have to say 3rd team refs still march people 10 for niggly and stupid things such as throwing the ball away at free kicks...or even just someone other than the skipper asking "what was that for?" This needs to be the same at the top level too. Many of us envy the guys who can now earn a living from this great game but we need them to set an example for the next generation.

    As for props feigning injury, I'm right behind you in the rush from the stands!

  • Comment number 50.

    John if you were to run on a pitch and sort out a prop who's at it then I must insist you speak to the Glassy and no one else about it!!! ;)

    Seriously though, agree with your sentiments although given my recent (and futile experience) in trying to get the IRB to condemn gouging, you may have a long wait for these much-needed changes to tidy the sport up to be enforced!

  • Comment number 51.

    John - I always love your blogs they are very insightful.

    You have highlighted one of the biggest problems at all levels of rugby and that is the tackle area. All I can say is "RUCK RUCK RUCK and RUCK AGAIN" - if some meathead sees somebody on the wrong side then the person on the wrong side will know whats coming and probably wouldn't do it again.

    I do have to take issue with props going down on one knee. It is something that I employ all the time but it is mainly because I am totally knackered and I need 2 minutes to get my breath back before running around like a lunatic for another few minutes. But there again I'm 42, still playing prop but need a break every now and again.

    Teach sportsmanship at the schools and the clubs that will help.

    At my club each child is marked according to several criteria and apart from the skills based ones they also mark them on respect for the coach/referee and on match days respect for the opposition. At the end of the season the awards are given out based on these marks - for a couple of the age groups it wasn't the best player that got it but the fairest player (who also happened to be very good!).

    With regards to booing - I don't like it but there are lot more things happening on the pitch which are a hell of lot worse. In comparison to these things you've highlighted booing is pretty low on the priority list!

  • Comment number 52.

    Nice to see a Scotsman making sense for a change! I have to agree that this gamesmanship is ruining the game. A prime example is the BloodGate affair and yet nothing tangible was really done to properly penalise the club - there can be no doubt that they all will have know what was going on.

    While JB has a point, this is not an issue that can be resolved in splendid British isolation - this is an IRB issue because we need to acknowledge that the Aussies, the All Blacks and the Boxs are equally adept at the type of tactics described. Dealing with the issue needs to come from the top down - set a standard at international level (and how to punish offenders will need some careful thinking) and ensure that these standards are applied in the Premiership, the Magners League, the Super 14, the Currie Cup, the Tri-Nations et al.

    Without this level of agreement and consistency any piece meal regulations will be unsustainable.

    Also think that Booing kickers is the thin end of the wedge - once you accept poor sportsmanship from your spectators, you can only expect the same approach to spread, like an uncontrollable virus, across all levels of the game. RESPECT THE KICKER AND RESPECT OUR PROUD RUGBY CODE!

    I take pride in Rugby's honour code - we need the regulators to have the courage to enforce this code at all levels of rugby, from the Primary School to the Internationals. In that way our great game will continue to flourish - and I won't mind the Scots winning occasionally!

  • Comment number 53.

    Although i dont watch a lot of northern hemisphere rugby as i do come from Australia...from what i have watched you are right on the mark.

    The simple solution is for your referees to adopt the new way in which SANZAR referees manage the game. Under the new game management guidelines the onus is on the tackler to release the player straight away and to ROLL AWAY...this makes for highly attacking rugby as the attacking team is given every opportunity with the ball. If any of your readers has watched a game of Super 14 this year, i think they would agree that our referees have got it right and the trys are finally being scored!!

    P.S (i know all this because i am a referee myself!)

  • Comment number 54.

    "With regards to booing - I don't like it but there are lot more things happening on the pitch which are a hell of lot worse"
    Maybe so, but should it be condoned?
    And is "cheating" new?
    Feigning injury, diving, rolling around as if shot, yes.
    Slowing the ball at the ruck, sneaky hand on the ball, sly slap here and there, no.
    Don't get all of 48's references, but I do catch his drift, especially the last bit - "men behaving like men".

  • Comment number 55.

    Ah, it's 11 at night and I am off to bed...but

    James Marshall - I like this, is the English premiership not doing this as well?

    Wise Owl - why thank you. it does need cross border collusion, and I don't mind England, Ireland, Wales or Italy winning occasionally.

    Little Rew - that's a great thing your club does, and I know there are a few initiatives like that. Programmes that teach respect for self, game and opponent.

    Matt 74 - let's start a petition

    Doug - it would take more than me and you at the moment to sort out some of these props. Slow hand clapping anyone?

    Brandon - maybe it's just the way the world is going. Professionalism breeds cheating and conning. It's actually the fans who get short changed as players dupe us and each other.

    Off to bed - lovely day here in Glasgow, it's spring, temperature must be, oh, just above freezing...


  • Comment number 56.

    Rossignol - this blog wasn't supposed to be about booing, I was brought up not liking booing. I do feel guilty defending it, and I know that it isn't in Corinthian in its spirit, but as I've said I hate on field cheating so much more. Maybe I am wrong. I am wrong lots and lots. Your comment at 54 hasn't loaded as I write this

    See you all in the morning, and if anyone has contact details for Andy Ripley [Personal details removed by Moderator]as he was one of my heroes and I know he is not well.


  • Comment number 57.

    John, I agree with the few people here who have said bring back rucking! Seriously! Caught once in the way on the wrong side, boot to the chest, ouch, not gonna do that again! Its and easy solution, rucking was part of the game for years and years and years (and years...), removing it was a daft decision, it's not like the rest of the game has no chance of causing injury is it?

    My club did a similar thing to Little Rew's, I even won it at mine once! (and I don't claim to be that good a fullback!) Our coaches always impressed a respectful attitude on us; "Call the Ref 'Sir', Shake Hands, look out for eachother and opposition players," that kind of thing, it's definately the way I intend to coach in the future! (Im doing my badges atm).

    The most irritating bit of cheating for me though is the creeping up on the offside line, in a game (sadly) becoming increasingly more about the attritional strength of your forwards, allowing a defensive line that extra yard or two severely limits the options to put the ball through the hands, thereby limiting the role/effectiveness of the backs, and encouraging more boring 'up'n'grind' and end to end kicking. No-one wants to see that, and I know pretty well that I really don't want to be involved in a game like that! Make offside clearer, and enforce it, and we'll see alot more back play in rugby. I cant wait!

  • Comment number 58.

    I used to do my driving lessons in and around Jordanhill, and nearly ran some poor guy over in Helensburgh Drive 'cos I indicated left at the wrong time. I probably deserved heckling for that.

    But on topic now? Slow play is killing rugby union, at least in my eyes. It's not a problem unique to the sport, but the time taken at the breakdown, both in play, in touch, and at the restart, is making the game much harder to watch and hence enjoy. So I agree with you wholeheartedly.

  • Comment number 59.

    I haven't read all 56 posts, and am far from being a rugby expert, but I think I've just had a road to Damascus moment on how adequately to punish illegal play in rugby without the game being reduced yet further to a kick-fest between two robotically able placekickers.

    How would it be if for every offence that currently carries an option for the non-offending side either to kick for touch or for goal, the non-offending side was awarded a single point automatically (or possibly two - this could be discussed), and additionally was awarded a penalty that had to be kicked to touch?

    Illegality would continue to carry a points sanction, and would additionally put the offending side on the back foot territorially, such that deliberate foul play would be a foolish tactic to employ, even if the immediate points penalty were reduced from the current 3 points. For the "innocent" side, you would get an automatic compensation for the other side's foul play without the risk of a missed kick, and would in addition be placed in an advantageous position to launch an attack om the opposition's goal line.

    If the effect of this proposal were that place kicks at goal were seen only after tries had been scored, many might feel that rugby as a spectacle had been greatly improved.

  • Comment number 60.

    I have been based in Queensland now for a year so therefore been going to the Super 14 each week. It's a pleasure to see referees give the advantage to the attacking side consistently and penalising constant infringements in the ruck. At the Reds-Stormers game last friday, Schalk Burger and Duane Vermeulen were repeatedly penalised for their negative work at the breakdown.

    This is also the case with Richie McCaw, he is nowhere the superstar for the Crusaders as he is for the All Blacks when they are on the Autumn tour, purely because he is penalised a lot in the ruck. Classic workhorse 7's such as Phil Waugh receive a lot more credit for playing the game fairly and consistently, hence why he has been the form forward this season out of the 4 australian teams.

  • Comment number 61.

    I'm about to score zero for political correctness...

    Aren't we being a little coy? Cheating has always been part of the game: a prolonged tackle on the scrum-half to delay his return to play, standing on a lock's foot just as he is about to jump in a lineout, holding the flank's jersey just as a back-row move designed to put someone through the blind side is about to develop, and uglier stuff like driving your head into an opponent's face during a front-on tackle or packing for a scrummage have long and celebrated histories in the game. The new kind of cheating is really just an expression of professionalism, albeit certainly not an attractive one.

    Try to stamp it out by all means: nobody has been able to do so for over a century.

    As for myself, I am bored by "professional era" cheating; I think it was a lot more fun before professionalism, for players and spectators alike. Of course, in those times referees did a lot less nannying, so cheating and the consequences of cheating were very different. Say what you will, in those days, "David" teams could take on "Goliath" teams and, by raising their games (amplifying the tempo of cheating) they could periodically win. In the professional era, boring cheating and boring processions as the big guys inevitably beat the little guys seem to be the order of the day.

  • Comment number 62.

    I am so glad someone else has said this and wants action, I love most sports, and one thing I particularly liked about rugby was the sportsmanship and general fair play of rugby, unfortunately it is creeping into the game. In football they have been trying to get rid of it but it is so inbred in the game but they can't, but the authorities have to act now to stop rugby going the same way.

  • Comment number 63.

    Thank you John, for articulating what so many of us have been thinking for so long!

    And you are absolutely right, it begins (and to some extent ends) with coaches. My son (10) is coming to the end of his 1st rugby season, and it's become clear that, sadly, the better teams here in Cheshire are being deliberately coached in exactly the techniques you refer to ... at 10 years old, and younger!

    IMHO coaches demonstrating this kind of lack of regard for the sporting spirit which has always differentiated rugby from soccer should be systematically removed from the game.

  • Comment number 64.

    Hi John,

    I agree with your comments (and a lot of the comments posted here), but often i feel the referee is such a busy man that he will miss things here and there. Thats pretty much how most of these incidents escape punishment anyway. The ref unless he's sure someones faking or delibrately getting in the way, etc has to give the benefit of the doubt and let the game flow.

    So i would like to offer a suggestion and see what you think - in the Australian Rules Football League, the AFL, the footage from every single match is reviewed by a tribunal after the playing weekend. Every camera angle (whether the ball is in the vicinity or not) is reviewed and any misdemeanours (high tackles, punches thrown in back play, unsporting behaviour) whether seen by the ref or not are punished with fines or suspensions of the players.

    Now using this sort of technology for Rugby should be significantly easier to manage then for the AFL (the grounds are much smaller and are rectangular, there are less players on the field and as a rule the players tend to be on opposite sides rather then all mixed in like in AFL). Do you think that this technology could be an option, at least for the higher leagues, as a very effective way to stamp out this sort of unsporting/cheating behaviour?

    A tribunal should be able to be fair and consistent, and not be influenced by the emotion of the day. This technology wont alter the results or slow down the game on the pitch on the day but a team that cheats will find itself short of its best players and so this will quickly curb players behaviours.

    Your thoughts...

  • Comment number 65.

    Trailerman and Sam - thanks, the next generation imitates what it sees on tv.

    Segnes - I know, but it is getting so much worse with every game is it not? Players diving - saw one in a European game - players rolling the ball away, players obstructing. And as you say, if in the "olden" days someone stood on a foot then they got smacked for it. Not that I am condoning this in any way.

    revilotrebor - hey, not a bad idea. Just award some points against a team for cheating - like boxing!

    Einveldi - was it me you nearly ran over?

    Croftalicious - what you find now is that every single player in the defensive line is offside.....

    But to recap on the central point of this - it is coached, it is all coached in an attempt to win a game.


  • Comment number 66.

    Iglethal - sorry, your comment came up during my post. Yes, I am absolutely sure that it will come one day. Tapes are already reviewed by citing commissioners if foul play has been missed, and there is the potential for the retrospective search for actions which bring the game into disrepute


  • Comment number 67.

    I am really pleased that somebody has, at last, come out about the cheating in rugby union. The fault lies with the authorities for not taking action quickly enough.

    Referees allow things to go on during the game for too long before taking action, usually too little too late. It starts with the coaching "roll away tackler", "ruck, no hands", etc. The penalties don't start being awarded until there is an element of "persistent offending" and the yellows are also a bit slow in being shown.

    I think that referees are trying too hard to make the game an entertaining spectacle. Could they please leave that to the teams and get on with policing it fairly and accurately? If a team gets penalised it is not the referees fault, it is the fault of the penalised team. If a player gets yellow carded then it is the player's own fault not the referee's.

    The authorities are not helping by having a very weak and often confusing disciplinary structure. For example, the Celtic League has no disciplinary structure in place but relies wholly on the union of the team concerned to discipline players. This has led to the process being ridiculed when paltry bans are handed out for, sometimes, dangerous acts by players.

    I am right behind John's rant but when it comes to what to do about it we all appear either stumped or at odds. There needs to be a change at the top, referees need more support for their decisions (not like it is down under) and teams need to be penalised by the leagues for deliberate cheating.

  • Comment number 68.

    Many valid points and an interesting debate but the constant references to rugby going down the same road as football are a red herring. I dont recall any football clubs using fake blood to try and gain an advantage.

  • Comment number 69.

    Excellent blog JB and I'm glad to see your definite standpoint on this matter overall and the individual issues.

    As the game changes and strategies evolve, refs should be briefed on all aspects of cheating.

    To my mind there are three big threats referees have at their disposal during a game:

    1) advancing the penalty 10 yards - rarely used, a big deterrent given modern kicking accuracy
    2) yellow cards - to be produced every bit as freely as they were by James Jones at Firhill on Friday
    3) red cards - to be produced not just when individual players repeatedly offend but also when teams collectively reoffend

    To watch and play, rugby is at it's best when it's free flowing multiple phase action. That's when holes open in defences, that's when tries get scored. Any cheating that slows play needs stamped on hard.

  • Comment number 70.

    HighlandWasp - good line, ouch, very good line. The fake blood was to get round a specific problem where they were trying to get a player back on the pitch when he had already been substituted. Yes, good line.

    I met a rugby doctor who said he once had to go back into a dressing room and ask: "Excuse me, how do you get this red stuff off my hands?"

    But where rugby is creeping toward football is in players trying to create problems for other players or get them in trouble. For instance diving and feigning injury which are so prevalent in football it ensured I was the only person in a football ground trying to start a slow hand clap a few weeks ago.

    Philip - referees are too patient. Players should be leaving the pitch early if they have infringed.

    Right, that's me off out for a bit but I will be back, as Arnie says.


  • Comment number 71.

    I'm not entirely sure John, that these things are necessarily new to the game - I thought you were still a bit young to come out with the "in my day" line of argument!!! You are probably right that it is more prevalent now though.

    It is ultimately the fault of the refs. Players will play the refs not the laws and if they allow them to get away with it, then they aren't going to stop are they? Zero tolerance with these problems might start to help get rid of them, but there doesnt seem to be the will to do this.

    Part of it for me is that referees seem reluctant to put their foot down - I am pretty sure, for instance, that Berger was not dismissed in the Second Test because there would have been an outcry from the media about once again the referee "ruining the spectacle" by sending off a player early.

    If we want to see the game without the "proffessionalism", we need to have a period of pain, I would think, where refs arent afraid to use their cards. Once players know the boundaries they will be more reluctant to cross them. I can't see it happening to be honest but I agree with you that something needs to be done, and fast.

  • Comment number 72.

    Again, I agree with John on players leaving early when they deliberately infringe.

    On the point about blockers, I notice that most of the time the blockers are in an off-side position and not retreating. As I understand it, this is punishable with a penalty. Why are the referees not calling it?

    It doesn't take TV coverage to pick this one up as it is so obvious - more obvious than a marginal forward pass.

    The same can be said for not rolling away in a ruck and moving the ball away to prevent a free kick/penalty/line-out from being taken quickly.

    I agree with steviegen on his point about the referee being accused of ruining the spectacle. If the referee does his job properly then the only people who can be accused of ruining the spectacle are the players as it is they, and not the referee, who are infringing and injuring others.

    I think that I'd be prepared to put up with "a period of pain" if it teaches the coaches that breaking the laws of the game will not gain you any advantage.

  • Comment number 73.

    I totally agree, and reading this article and the responses genuinely makes me feel like something can finally be done to clear up the beautiful game.

    I find watching South Africa, New Zealand, Ireland and Wales infuriating.

    Edinburgh also had blockers on Sunday.

    Every single team in the world throws the ball away for free kicks.

    There is a simple solution, if the ball goes dead drop it at your feet, if not, 10metre penalty and yellow card for misconduct.

    Referees and captains crowding the referee is extremely aggravating. The IRB must take quick steps to ensure that only the captain can speak to the referee and any player attempting to must be penalised.

    I thik referees are reluctant to use yellows because it can determine the results of games, such as Alun Wyn Jones vs England.

    Perhaps there should be a punishment less drastic than 10 minutes in the sin bin? A 5 minute sin bin = yellow card, 10minute = amber, full game = red?

    This is the reason I have always preferred sevens, because by dint of having less players the exact same rules are played in a very different and clean way.

    Thank you John. Now what?

  • Comment number 74.

    Hi there.

    I find this article hilarious in many ways, but primarily because the rugby world seems to be getting a telling off from an EX-SCOTTISH FORWARD about cheating by illegally slowing opposition ball down at the breakdown!!!

    I'm sorry, but does everybody not see the irony in this? I'm certainly having a good chuckle.

  • Comment number 75.

    Continuing on tough refereeing. During last year's 6 nations there was one weekend when the kicker of a high ball would run into a defending player deliberately and then fall over. The penalty was duly awarded to the kicker's team.

    The following weekend, kickers kept doing the same but this time no penalties were awarded for it - with one kicker being advised to go to RADA for lessons.

    The weekend after that, no kicker ran into a defending player.

    It doesn't take that long to get the message across.

  • Comment number 76.


    Absolutely with you on everything. The extent to which teams play offside now is laughable. The job of most inside centres these days is to run ahead of the ball and grab the shirts of his opposite numbers to create space for the miss pass. The list of ploys is endless, the cheating is barefaced and the spectacle is declining.

    Possibly the most galling aspect is the people who salute the cheats! The ones who talk about good "in yer face play" when they really mean obstruction. Once upon a time players would sort this out on the pitch...the perpetrator would either be trodden on and rucked out of the way or would get a sharp belt if they were tackling people off the ball. The sad byproduct of of "player justice" being clamped down so hard is that it just creates a free-fire zone for cheats!

    I watched the old warhorse Danny Grewcock sent off for Bath against Ulster. Stephen Ferris (an "in yer face" player) was on the wrong side of the ruck but had hold of Danny's ankle, even though he wasn't bound on, to ensure that if he tried to defend at the fringe he would fall over. Grewcock, who is nothing if not "old-style" looked down and stamped twice on Ferris's arm to get him to let go. Pandemonium...Ferris did the whole football, rolling on the ground clutching his face routine and the ref promptly whipped out the red card. Bath, down to 14 men went on the lose! Who says crime doesn't pay?

    I was sickened, not by the apparent violence (all the TV pundits were predicatbly "horrified") but at how a player had prospered from such a flagrant act of cheating followed by a very contrived attempt to get a man sent off. I was left wondering whether I had seen the same incident judging by the pious condemnation handed down on the man who had been wronged in the first place!

  • Comment number 77.

    I can see where you are coming from John, some things being done in the adult game are creeping down into the mini's... but that's up to the coaches and refs at that level to deal with.

    My pet peeve is the late hit after the try... player's scored the try with a dive... 30secs later someone from the opposition dives on top of the scorer slamming an elbow into the scorers back.

    This is almost cowardly.. somone will get seriously hurt soon (if not already)

    I've mulled over a solution to the multiple yellow card issue that blighted the Ulster game..

    1st yellow - 10 mins
    2nd yellow - 15 mins
    3rd yellow - 25 mins
    4th yellow - 40 mins

    Any cards given near the end of the game, say 3rd yellow 5 mins from end, then the offending side starts next fixture with the man in the bin for 20 minutes.

    They would have to keep the player playing in the position carded off, none of this.. we lost a flanker so we'll start the next game a winger light.

    No one would want to start a game a man down, so it would put the onus back on teams and coaches to behave.

    As for crowding the ref, only the Captain should be able to approach the ref, anyone else - automatic free kick. Only exception would be if the captain is down injured.

    Rugby is a tough game, we must admit that the ref's - good or bad - cannot see everything.

    But what we can say is that rugby, unlike it's larger compatriot, is willing to try to change.

  • Comment number 78.

    Excellent blog. I disagree with the booing perspective. Refs should be 'educated' into the ways of teaching and told from on high to penalise severely.

    It's the footballisation of rugby culture that makes me worry. You don't this in rugby league so why is it now part of the union game? Anyone who fakes an injury, writhing around in agony just to delay the opposition or worse get them penalised should be binned in an 'injury' bin for 5 minutes automatically with no replacements -- that'll give time for running repairs if genuine and an opportunity to reflect if fake.

    The rushing of the referee is a disgrace and the ref should not hesitate to wield the cards at this point. I remember Neil Back getting a 6 month ban for pushing over a ref. Players who lay a hand on the ref and don't say 'sir' should get a ban of up to 1 month depending on how impolite or in-the-ref's-face they get. And no cop outs from the policy makers. If you're cited, you're banned.

    It might be a bit mad, but if the true game of rugby is going to re-emerge then we have to act fast and carry a very big stick.

  • Comment number 79.

    When was the last time a team got marched back 10? I remember the arguemnet for this to start happening in football to stop the dissent!! Kickers now could really punish little things like throwing the ball away or a sharp word to the referee.

    Also certain positions tacklers now find themselves in were considered brave places to be not so long ago.

    John, you failed to mention the shouting at touch judges at the smallest little thing! Certain full backs complaining that a prop has gone down to the touch judge. when did this become normal?

  • Comment number 80.

    Excellent blog, and completely agree that something needs to be done.

    I do, however, have a slight issue with the injury bit. I have played front row for years and have lost count of the number of times one of my team mates have ran past me on the field and said "go down injured" to allow a natural break in the game. Like Twenty20 cricket, the concept is not new, it has just become fashionable.

    Often the players are genuinely in need of a break and given what rugby players are being subjected to physically during a game I don't begrudge them that time.

    The props go down because they know a scrum or lineout cannot happen without them. They are the most valuable asset in a team. How about a scrum becomes uncontested while the prop is down and the team who has a prop down cannot compete at the lineout because they are not allowed to lift?

  • Comment number 81.

    I don't think the problem of cheating is any worse than it has been in the past, just that we see a lot more rugby and there are a lot more cameras to pick things up.

    The real issue I have is with treating props differently from every other position. Most amateur clubs will have players that cover more than one position so would it be out of the question to phase in players that can cover front row as well as say 6. I have seen a lot of players go from 6 to 1 to 3 in one game and yet at the elite level we say this cannot happen. I am aware of the safety issues, but surely these can be negated with training and game time in a front row position. This would get rid of the farce that we see time and time again with any team John Smit captains where he comes off after 60 minutes and the team falls apart (first Lions test) only for a prop to go down ‘injured’ and the captain to reappear.

    Before anyone accuses me of not understanding the dangers, I do and maybe some changes to the scrumming laws would be needed when a part time prop comes in, but how is the game well served at the moment where we treat front row as an entity within itself.

  • Comment number 82.

    The stark truth is that referees have not kept up with matters ….. and remember these guys are so good at their job they can’t even see a feed to the 2nd row as not straight.

    Most problems in rugby are easily solved but lack of will by administrators and refs mean they don’t get solved.

    The problem of hanging on to the ball is so simple to solve its untrue. At the point a ref blows for an offence, if the team against whom the offence has been given has the ball they have to immediately place it on the ground. Same at a line-out – if it isn’t your throw in you’ve no reason to hold the ball and if you are holding it then penalty.

    Refs cannot ref the breakdown, players can if they are allowed. Get on the wrong side, block the ball and get rucked out of the way. A good shoeing for being on the wrong side will soon resolve the problem. Refs also have to given players enough time to resolve this area – this is Union not League and we don’t want endless scrums.

    Crowding refs – well if the refs are so stupid as to allow it they deserve it. They already have the power to resolve it.

    You get a prop down injured then switch to tap penalty. Scrums are so biased anyway its hardly the biggest loss. It’ll keep the game going and you’ll be amazed how quickly the prop will recover.

    Blocking – well stop kicking the ball away and you won’t get blocked. Its supposed to be a game played with ball in hand not orbit.

    Good blog, bang on. John.

  • Comment number 83.

    C'mon big fella, Did you never have a prop hold up proceedings whilst he re-tied his booties with a double knot? Did you, as a Scot, never lurk in an off-side position at rucks and mauls? Did you never play to the ref's whistle even though you HAD knocked it on?
    I AM sure you never took fake blood on the pitch or crowded the ref but were you so saintly that Scotland had to pick you for your adherence to the letter of the law? Whilst it is annoying, Rugby is a game where you push your luck with the ref until he catches you out.
    Kinda think the ref being crowded and the fans booing kicks are sort of connected......

  • Comment number 84.

    Some great comments, which have really stirred the emotions.
    I have said on 606 and on other blogs several times and I think someone has already mentioned it earlier that the rules/laws are already there to stop these antic’s. I was about to write we need strong referee’s to enforce them but what we need is the IRB to send out a strong message and all the Unions to adhere to them and re-enforce them. We also need the Unions to apply them in the same manner not take their own slight on them as I believe has happened over the last few years as let’s face it the Super 14’s can seem like a different game to how it is played in the HC or GP and I believe that is mostly down to the way the laws are applied rather than the way teams are coached.

    The 2 main arguments against this are that this is that this is what happens when it is has turned professional and all we would get is a whistle littered games.

    NO WE WOULDN’T !!!! If the teams are profession al as we think, if they start to lose games due to constantly getting penalised, coaches would start to coach them differently and players would learn not to give them away. As a coach myself of a lower league team the same theory applies to our game, GP, HC, super 14, internationals also whether the rules are applied strictly or leniently the most penalised team gets beat and at the end of the day that is what being a pro is about –winning! So they would have to learn to win within the Laws!

  • Comment number 85.

    Great article again JB, it's got us all talking...

    Not sure how new some of this cheating is, I think it's just changed a bit... I recall a Scotland v England game where the ball went up in the air at kick off and floated towards Wade Dooley, then crack, JB rattles his ribs and Mr Dooley loses his cool a bit.

    Word on the street was that the move was pre-planned to stir up PC Dooley, never one for keeping his cool under provocation!

    Perhaps you can offer a bit more insight, but I suspect it's the same old thing, just a bit different? But maybe I'm wrong...

  • Comment number 86.

    Very good article and some very interesting comments.
    As for some of the rule changes bought into place over the last few years i really do believe that IRB hierachy have been at the port way too much. They have lost touch of reality and how the game should be played, from grass roots level to internationals
    Firstly the collapsing of mauls had to be by far the most ridiculous law i have ever had to endure in my 20 year playing career, it would've been safer to abseil off the Twickenham roof without a rope, thank god someone had the balls to revert it back.

    Anyway, i digress.
    Yes, i do think it is becoming a bit like football, only last weekend watching the Guinness premiership highlights i noticed the over exuberant try celebrations, players hugging and kissing, i thought we had rid the game of fake tans and Tony n Guy hair do's with the "unfortunate" dimise of Mr Charlotte Church.

    To see players crowding a ref is disgusting, like someone else mentioned...march them back 10 yards, next infringment should result in a yellow card.
    And for the tacklers not rolling away, the easiest way to resolve this issue is to bring back good old fashioned rucking, when i used to try and "slow" the ball down it used to bloody well hurt, and it certainly made you think twice about lying their again.
    Perhaps the powers that be don't want to be sued by players just in case it messes up their modelling contract or pending hair product sponsorship.

  • Comment number 87.

    I watched Glaws play the Not Not's on Saturday and the first half lasted nearly 50 minutes solely because the Irish team deliberately slowed the game down. Every time the ball went dead an Irish player would sink to the ground clutching an apparent injury. The ref, Dedney, did nothing to stop this, so allowed the Irish team to repeatedly take the steam out of the Gloucester attacks. The pragmatist says clever play, but you wouldn't catch me paying money to watch that sort of behaviour week in week out. Ranting is surprisingly cathartic.

  • Comment number 88.

    ViveL'Ecosse - I can honestly say that the ball was landing beyond Wade, who was a great player, and I went for it. He was so tall that it looked as though i was just running into him. But it has been talked about differently, and I did not mean to take him out.

    Paul, that's it.....let it all out.....that's what i am doing. Some teams play up a gear if they can, then deliberately take a rest.

    Steve, no, all of our play in the Scotland team was to speed the game up and run bigger lazier teams off the pitch. I really believe in fair play. Done some silly things, but genuinely believe you show the opposition respect. Can't think of deliberate cheats that we planned in all my international playing days. I will go away and have a think, but nothing comes to mind. I think in Scotland we were the most naive team around. Ah, a block in the lineout maybe....

    And a great comment about how this hasn't come into rugby league. Has it?

    Off out to play the geetar with friends.........


  • Comment number 89.

    We are still the most naive team around.

    Personally, I prefer it that way.

  • Comment number 90.

    John, why did the IRB stop players on the wrong side from being rucked out of the way - i.e. studs down their back or legs? I'm from the old school where if you got on the wrong side you knew, expected and accepted what was coming - a good 'shoeing'. That said, there was an unwritten code of conduct that certain things were taboo, such as a boot any where near someone's head. For all the tinkering the authorities do to supposedly speed up the game, bringing back aggressive rucking would certainly help.

  • Comment number 91.

    Another way of looking at it is that the northern hemisphere is only starting to do what southern hemisphere teams have been doing and getting away with for years.
    Are we not just getting smarter?

  • Comment number 92.

    Great blog John, totally agree and what's worse than what you have mentioned is players gesturing to show a card to the referee. If it's not stopped rugby will be as shambolic and laughable as football

  • Comment number 93.

    You're getting a lot of yee-hah's for your post, John. But I suspect it is because you largely state the obvious: people don't like cheating. Fair enough, you are venting your frustration and playing the 'grumpy old man' part, but you don't really go too far in terms of proposing a solution (although, granted, petty things like not giving up the ball for free kicks could be simply solved with harsher and more vigilant refereeing).

    The biggest problem you refer to is 'Not rolling away at the tackle.' Ah, the prodigious mess that is the modern ruck! With respect, I feel that solving this problem is more complicated than you make it out to be - as is suggested by the extensive, yet thusfar fruitless attempts by governing bodies all over the world to do so.

    As an openside flanker, I cannot lay blame at the door of the player: there has, in rugby, always existed an extremely fine line between hero and cheat, and any expectation of the player to be some kind of self-chastising beacon of integrity and fair-play is naive. This is not golf. Richie McCaw would be the first person to tell you that! If I had an opportunity to slow the ball down, I would be a pretty useless 7 if I didn't take it. Look at the England/Ireland game in the 6 nations (a random example, and by no means unique): one of the key differences between the two teams was that the Irish (particularly the backrow) were able to slow the ball down at the breakdown and to win key turnovers. This was lauded as a trait of the more 'streetwise' and 'savvy' team. The English coaches were then criticised for their team's lack of clinicality and 'savvy' at the tackle area - so blame cannot be laid here, either: coaches are under unprecedented pressure to win matches, and will play the game not to the letter of the law, but to how it is refereed.

    And so to the law itself and it's enforcement. Only a very naive person would simplify the refereeing of the ruck in it's current state as a case of black and white. I have every sympathy with the referee who struggles to determine when a player is trying to roll away, when a player is trying to release, and at what split second a player has joined the ruck thus determining whether he can use his hands at all. And all of this with players who know the laws inside-out and will do very canny things to make appearance different to reality (for instance, the tackler holding the ball into the chest of the tackled player in order to win the penalty, or, as you alluded to, the tackler writhing around and waving his arms shouting 'I'm stuck ref' when he is, in fact, as free as a bird!). It's a minefield. So what do we do? Intuitive as it's re-instatement may be, you must admit that rucking will never be brought back: it's negative effect on PR would be too great for governing bodies to entertain the notion. Should we, then, be looking at innovative new laws to eradicate the problem, thus risking further changes to the sport we love, and potentially having unforseen effects on parts of the game that they were never meant to alter (see some of the disastrous ELV's, which are now decried as the roots of some of modern rugby's problems)? Or should we keep things the same and trust to increasing familiarity on the part of players, coaches and referees to restore the balance of the tackle area? The risk here would be that the workarounds devised by devious players and coaches may be as unsightly as some of those currently employed.

    ...It is a problem of great complexity, and whilst your rant may have been cathartic, your failure to propose a solution alludes to the reason why none has yet been found. I go against the grain of opinion on this blog, but personally I prefer journalism to feature more analysis and less emotion: I can obtain plenty of the latter down the pub on match-day.

  • Comment number 94.

    John, there IS 'rule-bending' in rugby league. In attack, the main thing is running blockers ahead of the ball carrier, like union now does.

    Because possession is uncontested for 6 tackles, there's less scope for skullduggery at the ruck, but Aussies teams have made an art of wrestling to slow the play-the-ball, using techniques such as the grapple, the chicken wing, the crusher. Such tactics were making the game slower & less entertaining, and after influential purists spoke up against it, there's been a clampdown on it via the judiciary & the introduction of 2-refs.

  • Comment number 95.

    Big flanker - I suppose it is to keep rugby as a game that people would want to play. Not sure you can have a modern TV sport where some people can kick/stand on others.

    Are we just catching up with the Southern Hemisphere?

    Some comments still loading as I write this


  • Comment number 96.

    Adam - thank you for your analysis. My rant was cathartic. I'm only thirty six (or so it feels) and I was trying to point out that where in the past there might have been a little bit of off the cuff cheating, I think cheating is now coached. That was the point of the whole exercise. I agree the ruck is a minefield, I agree we don't go back to kicking people, I agree the laws are complicated, I agree a solution is difficult, nobody said rucks were black and white etc.

    The solution I proposed was the referees at the top level should be armed with knowledge about the cheating some teams do, that thought should be put gently to the teams who are about to be refereed, and referees should be at liberty to dismiss players immediately for some forms of cheating.

    The laws aren't the problem. It's the systemic attempt to get by them, and the lack of clout to get rid of offenders.

    Just back from a run. I think that is the end of my running career. Hips too sore, knee sore.....


  • Comment number 97.

    John - possibly slightly off the topic, but what is your view of the final round of Magners League fixtures? Is it fair that Glasgow will need to play Llanelli before Leinster, and probably Ospreys although not confirmed yet), take to the field?

    Any of these teams could finish anywhere in the top 3 (and hence could be home or away in the semi's) so is it not unfair that both Ospreys and Leinster will take to the field knowing exactly what they need to do to secure a home semi?

    And to link it into this blog, there is also the possibility wherby Glasgow and Ospreys both win (and hence secure 3rd and 2nd place respectably), and with Munster looking like finishing fourth, then Leinster could deliberatly loose to Edinburgh in order to line up an easier semi-final at home `to Glasgow, rather than the harder home match against Munster.

    Shouldn't all the games be played simultaneously, like the GP, Top 14, SPL, EPL and almost every other league in world sport?

  • Comment number 98.

    Is it a foregone concluaion that Munster will qualify for the play-offs? THought there was the little matter of a Blues Munster decider next weekend? Just a thought, that the easier game Leinster would have would be against the Blues. Come on, dont count your chickens yet, there is still one place still up for grabs!!!

  • Comment number 99.


    good call.

    the other point that I've noticed creeping in as the grabbing players at the ruck by the head, neck or shoulder and twisting them out of the way - it is only a matter of time before a 'Matt Hampson style' injury occurs.

    It may sound strange but I belive genuine rucking may save the whole ruck area, both in terms of freeing up the ball and avoiding the dangrous clearouts when defenders/attackers appear to seal off the ball.

    I sincerely hope I'm wrong but I feel only a career ending (or worse) injury will force a review.

    keep up the good work.


  • Comment number 100.

    Walter 86 - All games should be played at the same time I think. I imagine that the broadcasters want them separately and the contrast is there in that you want maximum exposure for games - which you might not get if they were all on at the same time.

    Steveigen - sport is unpredictable

    Waspsbathsomewhere - here is honesty time for me as that is what many clubs do and we did that at West of Scotland where I coached and I see pro players do it at all levels. It's because the defender you are aiming at has his hands on the ball as the third man on the scene and is allowed to stay there while on his feet. The quickest way to get him off his feet is to "twist" him off it either by going for one side of his body and attacking his legs, reaching beyond him and reaching around his back, the same and reaching around his shoulders, or indeed grabbing him round the neck and twisting him away.



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